The starter threw five mediocre innings, the bullpen was flawless and the offense hit two dongs. Just another typical win for the first-place Baltimore Orioles. This time, it was the Tampa Bay Rays who fell victim to the orange onslaught, losing 4-3 to the Birds at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Friday.
Yovani Gallardo took the hill for the O’s with an extra day of rest thanks to the All-Star break, but the right-hander sure didn’t look rested. Immediately, he was in a jam to start the game. Logan Forsythe led off with a single and was followed by a Brad Miller walk. Two batters later, Logan Morrison took a walk of his own to load the bases with one out.
Steven Souza Jr. grounded out to first base, allowing Forsythe to score and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. But Gallardo stopped the bleeding by getting Corey Dickerson to fly out.
Things didn’t get easier in the second inning. Kevin Kiermaier worked a one-out, seven-pitch walk and then Luke Maile singled, moving Kiermaier to third. The Rays centerfielder then scored on a Forsythe single to double the lead. A Brad Miller single and Evan Longoria walk loaded the bases before Morrison weakly grounded out to end the threat.
In the top of the third, the Birds offense pulled one run back, but Gallardo couldn’t hold onto it. Back-to-back, one-out singles from Dickerson and Brandon Guyer set up the attack this time. A Kiermaier fly out to right field moved Dickerson up to third from where he would score moments later on a Maile single. It was now 3-1 in the third inning.
The fourth and fifth innings would go by with relative ease for the O’s starter, but man were the first three frames a struggle. In all honesty, he was lucky to escape with only three runs given up. His final line: no decision, five innings, three runs, eight hits, four walks, two strikeouts. Ick!
The Alvarez show
Tampa’s Chris Archer kept eight-ninths of the O’s lineup in check early on in the night. Pedro Alvarez, however, was liking what he saw.
In the top of the third, the DH put the O’s on the board by taking a 95-mph, first-pitch fastball to deep centerfield and out for a DONG! At the time, it made it a 2-1 game before Gallardo coughed up a run of his own in the bottom of the inning.
Two innings later, it was Alvarez again who would put the Birds within a run of the home team. J.J. Hardy led off with a single to center field. And then it was Pedro again swinging at the first pitch. This time, it was an 85-mph change-up, which he went the other with and smacked off the very top of the fence in left field, scoring Hardy to make it 3-2. Manager Buck Showalter came out for a moment to discuss a possible review, but replays showed pretty clearly that Alvarez was just a bit short of the round-tripper.
Better late than never
The other hitters on the team did show up eventually. Manny Machado led off the sixth inning with a double. A Mark Trumbo single moved him around to third base. And a Matt Wieters fielder’s choice scored him, tying the game at three runs apiece.
In the eighth inning, Jonathan Schoop continued his ridiculous season by absolutely punishing an Archer slider deep to left field and into the bleachers. Somehow, someway, the Orioles were winning 4-3 in a game in which they had no right to really be anywhere close.
Schoop's homer went an estimated 407 feet. Exit velocity of 104 mph. #Orioles— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) July 16, 2016
Archer exited after 7.1 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, one walk and six strikeouts. Not a terrible performance, but enough to saddle him with the loss.
The Orioles bullpen pulled out all the stops again, combining for four innings, no runs, one hit, two walks and five strikeouts. Chaz Roe took the sixth. It was Mychal Givens in the seventh. Brad Brach in the eighth. And you know who in the ninth.
Closer Zach Britton was the one who had the most trouble. After earning the save in this year’s All-Star Game, he looked a bit out of sorts early on in his appearance, with one pitch nearly sailing over his catcher Wieters during the inning. He allowed a weak double to Brad Miller and then threw one of his sinkers right into the ground, allowing him to move up to third, but after intentionally walking Longoria, he made quick work of Morrison and Souza with a pair of strikeouts to seal the victory.
Go for the series win tomorrow
Boston beat the Yankees 5-3 tonight, so the Orioles AL East lead remains at two games. As of the writing of this post, Toronto is losing 2-0 to Oakland, but it is still early on the west coast.
The Birds will be hoping they can get their first series win of the second half. Right-hander Chris Tillman (12-2, 3.41 ERA) is on the mound for the visitors. He will be opposed by southpaw Matt Moore (5-6, 4.46). It is a bit of an odd start time: 6:10 p.m. ET and it will be shown on MASN 2.